Marine. Mechanical Engineer. Musician.
Deeply beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, and friend passed on May 11 at the age of 68. His full life was filled with family, music, friends, and a fulfilling profession. James Thomas “Doc” Welby was born in Boston but lived the majority of his life in Albuquerque with some wonderful years spent in Kentucky and Oklahoma. He enlisted in the Marine Corps voluntarily and served in Vietnam. He called or texted Semper Fi and Happy Birthday to his brothers each November 10, the Marine Corps birthday.
Jim earned an Associate’s Degree and his long career included but was not limited to director of the physical plant at Lovelace Health System, project management for the Tynan Group where he oversaw the construction of the Tamaya Resort, and with Dekker, Perrich, Sabatini where he was project manager for ABQ Uptown. This mechanical engineer could repair or build anything a home needed. When he couldn’t, he called in the “big guns,” his brother John Welby.
He and his wife Michelle enjoyed 30 years of love, fun, adventures, and overcame life’s many challenges due to deep mutual loyalty and shared values. He consistently supported and encouraged Michelle’s career and interests. He didn’t hold grudges (very long), gave compliments easily, and was very protective. Jim was a wonderful son and son-in-law and helped their parents in dozens of ways. He and Michelle weathered the final challenges of Jim’s rich and full life. He was positive and fun-loving and even in tremendous pain tried hard to not complain.
When his children - Erin, Allison and Justin, and nephew Michael were growing up, he faithfully attended cheerleading competitions, football games, concerts, and plays. He repaired cars, drove them anywhere, forgave a car wreck (one too many), and brought music into their lives. He loved them deeply, told them so often, and was proud of their individual accomplishments. When his family expanded with his children’s spouses, they were welcomed and loved in good times and in sad conclusions. He greatly enjoyed visits with his son-in-law Alex whom he admired.
Jim’s life was blessed with a multitude of friends. He served as Chairman of the “Board:” a tight group with whom he played golf and poker, camped, partied, boated, and argued vehemently about politics. They gave unconditional love, advice, and support to each other and were and are as close as brothers. John Smelser, Mark Russell, and Roy Towne - among other good friends - sustained and supported Jim for many years before and after he became ill. Jim’s last trip out of state was to Kansas to see Board Member John Herde. He mourned the loss of former Board Member Carlo Lucero who passed in November 2021.
Music was “Doc’s” passion. He played rhythm guitar and was the vocalist for the Doc Welby and the Swinging Johnsons Band. One of the band’s highlights was opening for Ray Charles at Santa Ana Casino. Lately he had been playing again with John Davis who he met when he was a teenager and Jon Williams, Tommy Martinez, and Steve Kenebrew; all superb musicians with whom he jammed and performed with for decades at the State Fair and multiple other places. He took up and mastered the craft of building electric guitars. He treasured working with Jack Greenberg and his brother-in-law William Wolff. In his garage with “his rules,” he designed, cut, sanded, painted, polished, tuned, and strung dozens of customized instruments.
His former co-workers from Lovelace got together quarterly for brunches with spouses to reminisce about good times and create new ones. He joined a club of Marines. He became friends with luthiers in Albuquerque and across the country. He collected people and his garage workshop continuously hosted visitors.
His beautiful memory will live on with his wife Michelle, daughters Erin Meece (Mike) and Allison Sadler (Alex), his son Justin Welby, brother John Welby (Vikki Kinderman), sister Jane Despain (Darwin), nephew Michael Moore (Lauren), in-laws Renée and William Wolff, his first wife Cindy McLean (AJ) who is the mother of his daughters and was a dear partner, and a multitude of friends not mentioned here but you know who you are. He will be missed by his six grandchildren: Lauren and Ryan Bevins, Peyton, Barrett and Lexi Sadler, and James Welby. His legacy also includes the many guitars he put in the hands of family, friends, and strangers.
Jim’s celebration of life will be held on Saturday, June 4 at 11:00 a.m. at French Mortuary 10500 Lomas Blvd NE in Albuquerque. In lieu of sending flowers, please be kind to your family, call an old friend, or make some music.